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  • Few years ago I came across an article about the most scenic villages in Europe. One of them interested me very much as we were planning to go to Dolomite region of South Tyrol, Austria and Northern Italy. It was the year 1994. Sheetal was going to be with us. While returning from Venice Italy to Innsbruck Austria we drove through the Dolomites. These mountains of Alpine range in Europe are unique as they are sheer tall craggy cliffs and are surrounded by very pretty valleys  ( Val ).In that trip we could not visit this village but it was stuck in my brain.
    The chance finally arrived few years ago when we had decided to take a cruise on river Danube.
    We departed from Philadelphia on a lovely September evening for Munich Germany. As we wanted to fly out of Philadelphia we had to fly American Airline . Unfortunately American flag carrier airlines are quite inferior in their customer service. In spite of specific request for vegetarian meal well ahead of time, we were told that somehow it was missed.
    After arriving at comparatively smaller airport of Munich next morning, we rented the car and like our previous tours in Europe Niti assumed her role as navigator. 
    The autobahns are generally very easy to navigate and here in Munich too it was easy. We were instructed by the rental car person that now due to EU regulations, we will have to purchase necessary toll permits for each of the countries we will be driving through. We stopped at the next rest stop and purchased the permit stickers for Germany, Austria and Slovenia. Then we had good cheese sandwiches and hot chocolate. In Europe, particularly in alpine countries, hot chocolates are the most delicious hot drinks . The coffee is generally much stronger and on bitter side.
    Village of Santa Magdalena is in Val de Funes ( Funes Valley ), one of the exquisite valleys in South Tyrol part of Austria.It is about 2 hours and 30 minutes drive from Munich Airport. We first took autobahn to Salzburg and about 40 minutes before Salzburg the exit for the autobahn ( A 12 ) for Innsbruck. Again about 20Kms before Innsbruck we have to follow the autobahn for Trento and Venice.( E45 ).On this we drove over the beautiful Brenner Pass. After entering Italian border  we took the exit for a quaint little alpine town of Brixen ( German )or Bressanone ( Italian ). from here the narrow winding motorway to the village starts. On both sides of the road there are tall groggy cliffs.There are good road signs everywhere in Europe so driving is not a problem at all. Only thing to remember is that the toll can be paid by exact change or cards.
    The road is narrow and curvy so speed has to be constantly monitored. Italians are impatient drivers and like us in India, are  prone to honk. Road is now passing through the beautiful Dolomite mountains. 
    Village of Santa Magdalena  has total population of 350 but boasts of several 5 star hotels. We stayed at Hotel Tyrol. Unfortunately we could not get the room facing the mountains but the view of the valley was equally spectacular.Like every European hotels the beds are very comfortable and as the nights get cold the duvets are very warm and cozy.
    After some rest we had very nice vegetarian meal. Nowadays ,unlike in 70s and 80s , vegetarian food is easily available.Here at Hotel Tyrol the menu changes daily but all the 3 days we had absolutely no trouble and each meal was delicious.
    After early dinner I went to explore the valley and to scout for good locations for photography. Niti decided to take rest. The village has a beautiful church of Santa Maddalena. I drove to the top of the hill where there is a large farm house . The view from here is the iconic view which was stuck in my mind. The light was pretty sufficient for lovely evening shots. There were couple of Japanese young women photographing too. As the road here is quite narrow the farmer was a bit cantankerous and insisted that we park the car in the village. 
    Alpine villages and farms have some very interesting sights of very healthy cows and big bells around their neck which are constantly ringing making soothing music.
    Next morning I went to the same site for sunrise photography. Later Niti and I had very nice breakfast of freshly baked breads, cheese,  fruits and honey. The whole honeycomb was placed  for honey. This we had never seen before.
    We took leisurely stroll through the village. Visited the church and admired the ceiling paintings.
    Later visited another iconic site where in the middle of the meadow there is a solitary church of St. Johann with beautiful backdrop of the mighty Dolomites.
    This was a wonderful spot to enjoy in absolutely spectacular and serene setting.
    Following morning we left for Lake Bled in Slovenia.